Pharmacies face closure due to a shortage of skilled staff, IPU says

Pharmacies face closure due to a shortage of skilled staff, IPU says

Pharmacies across the state face closure because they can’t hire qualified pharmacists, according to their industry body. And the shortage will also threaten their ability to provide a Covid vaccine booster program next winter.

A survey of 1,000 pharmacists by the Irish Pharmacy Union shows that it now takes an average of five months to fill vacant pharmacy positions. A third of vacant positions take six to 12 months to cover the most severe impact on rural pharmacies.

Speaking at the UPI annual meeting on Saturday, President Dermot Twomey will tell delegates that time is running out to find a solution to the problems in the sector.

“With a growing and aging population, we estimate that there is a significant shortage of pharmacists working in the industry,” he says.

“The impact of this shortage is increasingly evident and pharmacies, most of which are small family businesses, are struggling to keep their doors open.”

Mr Twomey says that a chronic lack of places for pharmacists in Irish universities is one of the main causes of this shortage. She said the survey showed that around half of the pharmacists working in the state had qualified in Ireland.

“It is unacceptable in 2022 that a modern health system has to rely on the outsourcing of education to other countries,” he said.

Crisis point

Mr Twomey said the industry has been campaigning for more tertiary posts in Ireland, including the establishment of an additional pharmacy school and graduate pharmacy program.

“It has now reached a crisis point and action must be swift,” he said. “More immediately, we need to make it as easy as possible for non-EU pharmacists to move and work in Ireland.”

The IPU has been waiting for months for a response to its request to include community pharmacists on the state’s list of critical professions, which would allow pharmacies to hire outside the European Union.

A third concern is what pharmacists claim is unnecessary bureaucracy, paper bureaucracy, and administration that takes an inordinate amount of time.

“The average pharmacist wastes a significant amount of time each working day filling out forms, such as paperwork for community drug programs. These activities add nothing to patient care or clinical safety, “she said.

“It is the bane of every pharmacist’s existence and could easily be solved.”

Nobody disputed the need to protect patients, he said, but more paperwork needs to be moved online and what is actually needed needs to be reevaluated.

“The government needs to make serious efforts to address this problem and take immediate steps to increase the number of college graduates, reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and ensure a steady flow of pharmacists from outside the country,” Twomey said.

“The alternative will be a sector that remains in crisis with the consequent impact on patient services, patient safety and the threat of pharmacy closures.”

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